US 20060263179 A1
The invention relates to an apparatus (1) having at least one supporting surface (3) for containers (4) and having a device. This device serves to load or unload and comprises a part (11), which can be slid onto the supporting surface (3) and withdrawn therefrom and which has a drive (12) therefor. The drive (12) consists of at least one drive wheel (44, 45), an articulated system (42, 43) and of a winding system (46, 47) for the articulated system (42, 43). The drive wheel (44, 45) can rotate about an axis (40), which extends approximately perpendicular to the direction of motion of the part (11). The winding system (46, 47) is situated in the plane of the drive wheel (44, 45).
1. In an apparatus having a supporting surface (3) for containers (4) and a device for loading and unloading said containers (4) onto said supporting surface (3), said device having a component (11) for unloading said containers from said supporting surface and a drive unit (12) for facilitating movement of said component (11) relative to a supporting surface (3), the improvement comprising:
said drive unit (12) having a drive wheel (44, 45), an articulation system (42, 43), and a winding system (46, 47) for winding said articulation system (42, 43);
said drive unit (12) being operable to convey said articulation system (42, 43) along a predetermined path;
said articulation system (42, 43) being attached to said component (11) for moving said component relative to said supporting surface (3);
said drive wheel (44, 45) being rotatable about an axis (40) wherein said axis (40) is disposed perpendicularly to said linear direction of motion of said component; and
said drive wheel (44, 45) defining a plane, said winding system (46, 47) being disposed in said plane defined by said drive wheel (44, 45).
2. An apparatus according to
3. An apparatus according to
said conveyor belt system (10) is adjacent to said working plane (9) and separated by a space from said supporting surface (3);and
an adjustable plate (17) is operable to bridge said space between said conveyor belt system (10) and said supporting surface (3).
4. An apparatus according to
said supporting surface (3) includes a first pair of lateral bars for guiding containers (4), and
said supporting surface (3) includes first edges for supporting said component (11), said first edges being disposed outside of said first pair of lateral bars; and
said plate (17) includes a second pair of lateral bars for guiding containers (4), said plate (17) further comprising second edges for supporting said component (11), said second edges being disposed outside of said second pair of lateral bars.
5. An apparatus according to
said carriage (11) being supported by means of supports (37) and rollers (39).
6. An apparatus according to
7. An apparatus according to
8. An apparatus according to
9. An apparatus according to
10. An apparatus according to
11. An apparatus according to
said panel device (38) is equipped with a servo motor (59) for positioning said panel (54) in one of said first and said second positions, and
said articulation system (42, 43) is operable to conduct one of a transmitting signal and an actuating current.
12. An apparatus according to
13. An apparatus according to
14. An apparatus according to
15. An apparatus according to
16. An apparatus according to
17. An apparatus according to
18. An apparatus according to
19. An apparatus according to
said first hollow space (71) and said spiral shaped second hollow space (72) being fluidly connected to said insulator room (15).
20. An apparatus according to
21. An apparatus according to
22. An apparatus according to
23. An apparatus according to
24. An apparatus according to
a slide (21) and a component for unloading disposed such that slide (21) can facilitate loading of said containers onto said supporting surface (3) through said opening (6) and said component for unloading can facilitate unloading of said containers from supporting surfaces (3) through said opening (6).
25. In an apparatus having a supporting surface (3) for containers (4) and a device for loading and unloading said containers (4) onto said supporting surface (3), said device including a component (11) for unloading said containers from said supporting surface (3) and a drive unit (12), the improvement comprising:
said component (11) including a panel (54) that is movable between a raised first position and a lowered second position, said panel being movable with said component (11) relative to said supporting surface (3), said panel being engagable with said container when in said second position.
26. An apparatus according to
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The invention relates to an apparatus having at least one supporting surface for containers, said apparatus having a device for loading and/or unloading containers on the supporting surface. The device includes a part that can be slid onto the supporting surface and withdrawn therefrom and a drive mechanism for the device.
An example for an apparatus of the kind in question here is a freeze-drying apparatus as described in EP-B1-391 208 (U.S. Pat. No. A1-5,129,162). A plurality of containers containing a product that is to be freeze-dried must be loaded onto supporting surfaces of the freeze-drying apparatus. Unloading is required after performing a freeze-drying process. Due to the extremely large number of containers that are loaded and unloaded during a batch, these processes are no longer performed manually. Typically, the containers are transported to and from the freeze-drying apparatus on conveyer belts. The containers are transferred from the conveyor belt to the supporting surfaces located in the chamber and back therefrom, after performing the freeze-drying process, by means of a sliding element.
The loading of the supporting surfaces of freeze-drying chambers or similar equipment must take place under extremely clean conditions since the containers or bottles containing the product to be freeze-dried are initially opened. Usually, a plug having a recess for the removal of the water vapor, lies on the opening of each of the containers. After performing the freeze-drying process, the containers are closed in the freeze-drying chamber by moving the supporting surfaces together and forcing the plug into the container. Even though the containers have already been closed, the unloading of the containers from the supporting surfaces, and the transfer of the containers to a capping device, occurs under clean room conditions. In this respect, freeze-drying facilities are equipped with insulators—if they are not located in clean rooms. An insulator, that is preferably formed by transparent wall sections, encloses those areas of the freeze-drying apparatus in which clean room conditions are supposed to be maintained. This also includes the container feed and removal means. Compared to the typical clean rooms, an insulator has the advantage that the required clean room volume is significantly smaller.
In freeze-drying apparatuses and installations of similar type, the drive systems for the moving parts are a problem. A spindle drive is used in the aforementioned freeze-drying apparatus. The use of toothed racks is also known. Drives of this type require a lot of space. Moreover, such structures include relatively narrow indentations or recesses, that require long sterilization periods. Since lubricants can also lead to contamination, drives of this type must be operated “dry”. The consequence is increased abrasion, which likewise causes contamination.
The object of the present invention is to design a drive system for apparatuses of the type heretofore described, wherein the described above-identified disadvantages are largely eliminated.
According to the invention, this object is achieved by the characterizing features of the patent claims.
A particular advantage of the present invention is a drive system that can be installed in one or two detachable housings in a space-saving manner. The drive system includes an articulation system, that is comprised of rigid elements that are connected with each other in an articulated manner that allows transmission of both pressure and tractive forces. Unloading lengths of several meters can be bridged, i.e., spanned. The articulation system is designed in terms of the articulation design and the material selection such that abrasion practically no longer occurs, i.e. no abrasion particles can reach the vicinity of the product, since in the retracted state articulation movements no longer take place.
The invention further provides a modular design. A drive wheel and winding system for the link chain can be accommodated in separate housings that are detachable from the apparatus, and hence be cleaned and/or sterilized independently from the apparatus. The interior spaces of the housing(s) can be formed as part of the insulator. The foregoing design requires only an outward rotational movement of the drive wheel, thus reducing the risk of contaminated air penetrating into the insulator to a minimum.
The invention can be used wherever supporting surfaces with containers, be it bottles, basins or the like, need to be loaded and/or unloaded. Their use is especially beneficial in apparatuses with insulators. Freeze-drying devices, sterilizing devices, rinsing systems or storage units with loading or unloading tables, formatting tables, batch breakdown tables, conveyer belt systems and working surfaces are examples of such apparatuses. If the apparatus having the supporting surfaces is loaded and unloaded from a side, the part that is moved by the drive system by means of the articulation system can be used for both the loading and unloading operation. If a supporting surface is loaded and unloaded from different sides, the carriage preferably assists in the unloading step since it can span relatively large unloading lengths.
Additional advantages and details of the invention shall be explained with reference to
A freeze-drying apparatus illustrated in the figures is designated by reference numeral 1. Freeze-drying apparatus 1 includes a chamber 2, that is only partially illustrated, and that contains supporting surfaces 3. A container 4 is illustrated on one of the supporting surfaces 3 by way of example. The containers 4 are guided by lateral bars 5.
With the help of a cylinder-piston system, that is not shown in detail, the supporting surfaces 3 can be adjusted in terms of their height. This height adjustment allows for one the individual supporting surfaces 3 to be adjusted to a certain loading and/or unloading height relative to a loading opening 6. In addition, following a freeze-drying process the supporting surfaces 3 can be pushed together with the help of the cylinder-piston device to force plugs in the container into the same to close the containers 4.
On the front side of freeze-drying apparatus 1, the chamber 2 includes a vacuum sealable door 7, that is equipped with the loading opening 6. Opening 6 can be closed by means of a movable flap 8. At the height of the loading opening 6, loading and unloading devices, are arranged on the front side of drying apparatus 1. The loading and unloading devices include a working plane 9, a conveyer belt system 10 that adjoins the plane 9 and assists in the feeding and removal of the containers 4 and sliding parts.
An insulator 14 is shown in
During the loading and unloading phases, the space between the conveyor belt 10 and the respective supporting surface 3 must be bridged through the loading opening 6. This occurs by means of a sliding plate 17 that can also be adjusted in terms of its angle. A drive system 18, that is only illustrated schematically in the drawing, is supported beneath the loading plane. As illustrated in
Referring now to
The slide 21 is equipped laterally with toothed racks 22, which engage gear wheels 24. The gear wheels 24 are located beneath the working plane 9 and extend through openings to engage the toothed racks 22. Beneath the working plane 9, a drive 26 and a shaft 27 (
This power transmission system for moving slide 21 can be replaced with toothed belts or spindle units that are coupled to each other.
Moreover the shaft 27 can be implemented mechanically and electrically (in the case of an electrical version by means of two drives).
The containers 4 transported by the conveyor belt 10 are slid, i.e., pushed, onto a supporting surface 3 by means of the slide 21 in order to load a supporting surface 3. This occurs after opening the loading opening 6, adjusting an empty supporting surface 3 to the loading height and moving the plate 17 in its operating position. Thereafter a latch (not represented) is closed, which is located on the side of the supporting surface 3 facing away in the conveying direction (arrow 31 in
All supporting surfaces 3 are loaded successively in the afore-described manner. Once the loading process has been completed, the plate 17 is lowered and retracted, the loading opening 6 is closed by flap 8. The product located in the containers 4 is then freeze-dried, as is conventionally known.
As already mentioned, the carriage 11, best illustrated in
The drive system 12 facilitates movement of the carriage 11. Drive system 12 is comprised of two articulation systems 42, 43, the free ends of which are attached laterally to the carriage 11, e.g., on the longitudinal bars 35. Each articulation system 42, 43 is allocated a drive wheel 44, 45, respectively, as well as a winding system 46, 47 arranged beneath. Drive system 12, that is described in more detail below, allows tractive and pressure forces to be transmitted to the carriage 11, specifically across the relatively long distance required for the unloading process, without the risk of creating abrasion particles in the vicinity of the product.
The articulation systems 42, 43 comprise rigid parts or elements that are connected to each other in an articulated manner. Like the carriage 11, the rigid parts of articulation systems 42, 43 are comprised of VA steel with rounded surfaces in order to achieve good sterilization results.
Both the described drive means and the respective drive wheels 44, 45 with respective winding systems 46, 47 are located beneath insulator 14. Corresponding wall sections have been designated by reference numeral 53.
After performing the freeze-drying process, the chamber 2 is unloaded by ventilating the chamber 2, opening the loading opening 6 and moving the plate 17 to its operating position. Each of the supporting surfaces 3 is moved successively to the loading and/or unloading height (at opening 6) and unloaded as follows. The carriage 11 is moved into the chamber 2, until the panel device 38 on carriage 11 (see also
An electrical solution for the actuation of the panel 54 is to be described with reference to
Referring now to
As illustrated in
The entering/exiting opening for the articulation system 43 from the cassette 63 has been designated by reference numeral 82 (
In the area of the cassette 64, a spiral-shaped hollow space 72 includes lateral grooves 84, 85. The ends 79 of pins 78 of articulation system 43 are received in these grooves so that the articulation system 43 can be accommodated in the cassette 64 in a space-saving manner.
In the area of the inner end of the spiral-shaped hollow space 72, an opening 86 is provided. A device, (not shown) that is capable of supplying the insulator room 15 with sterile gases, e.g. sterile air, is connected to opening 86. At least a portion of these gases that enter through the opening 86, also enter the hollow spaces 72 and 71 and keep the same sterile in the cassettes 64, 63, especially during operation. Outside the operating hours of freeze-drying apparatus 1, the interior space of the insulator 14 is decontaminated. During these processes sterilization gases, e.g. hydrogen peroxide, are fed in insulator 14. This occurs likewise through the openings 86 so that the hollow spaces 71 and 72 are also sterilized.